Saturday, September 22, 2018

How Arsene Wenger masterminded Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Chelsea

Ashley Randall in Editorial, FA Cup 29 May 2017

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger ended the season on a high with a 2-1 success over Chelsea yesterday to collect his seventh FA Cup trophy as Arsenal manager.

An early Alexis Sanchez strike was followed by a late Aaron Ramsey header to deliver the Gunners victory at Wembley.

The win came as a shock to many who believed that Antonio Conte’s Blues were certainties to complete a domestic double.

But just how did Wenger mastermind the success over Premier League champions Chelsea?

Mertesacker’s return

Many people had written Arsenal off before the game had even started and one of the main reasons was their lack of defensive options.

Laurent Koscielny was banned due to his sending off against Everton last week, and Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi were both ruled out because of injuries picked up in the same match.

Wenger was left to select Per Mertesacker in a three-man defence to make his first start since April 2016, and he didn’t disappoint.

The 6ft 7in German centre-half was instrumental in the Gunners success and put in a remarkable man-of-the-match performance.

It was a huge decision by Wenger to pick Mertesacker, especially after he had been out injured for so long, but it was a choice that was fully justified.

3-5-2 formation

In the 20 years that Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal, he has always been a firm believer of a back-four defensive line.

However, the 67-year-old knew that his tactics had to change when the Gunners lost 3-0 away to Crystal Palace at the start of April.

Wenger decided to revert to a back-three system, and since then Arsenal have embarked on an amazing run that has seen them win nine times in 10 games.

Yesterday’s defensive display was a key factor in their FA cup victory yesterday with Hector Bellarin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain providing vital cover down the flanks and Mertesacker giving out instructions to Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal.

It was a system that worked well for Mertesacker given the length of time he has been out, and meant he could sit in the middle of defence with less running than had he been in a back-four.

Arsenal win midfield battle

Wenger’s decision to play three in midfield meant they could cope more easily with Chelsea’s physical due of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante.

Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka all put in powerful and commanding displays to minimise the effect of the Blues’ engine room, and forced the Premier League’s Player of the Year to have his worst game this season.

Additionally, Arsenal’s superior performance was reflected by their slick passing and clever movement – something the team had been missing in so many games during the campaign.

Talk of Wenger losing his dressing room this season was automatically quashed with a fighting display from his whole team which may have been the best indicator yet that the players would like their manager to stay beyond the summer.

Wenger finally discovers Oxlade-Chamberlain’s position

It may not be where Oxlade-Chamberlain had predicted he would be playing for Arsenal at the start of his time at the club, but he seems to have taken to wing-back like a duck to water.

The Englishman’s emergence this season to a less-preferred role and his ability to claim the position as his own is testament to his respect for Wenger.

Chelsea’s Victor Moses had a very disappointing game and this was largely due to Oxlade’s Chamberlain’s dominance of the Nigerian, who was later sent off in frustration after a second yellow for simulation.

The 23-year-old still has a huge future ahead of him in the game, and after he looked like he may have been pushed out the door at Arsenal, he could fulfill his true potential at the club if he carries on his superb form.


Ashley Randall

Ash is a freelance football writer who lives, breathes and dreams the beautiful game. A lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder, if he isn't at Molineux then he will be watching any game on television that he can set his eyes on. Producing work for various football websites and publications, Ash has also written for regional newspapers and global magazines.



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